What a whirlwind I’ve been caught up in down here in the valley of the sun!! I want to thank you and ** for your kindness in helping with references
I got a call from my 87 year-old Gramma three weeks ago today. She lives less than a block away from my Mother and had been looking out for her, taking her to Doctor’s appointments, the grocery store, doing her best to help her around the house and dealing with her ever-changing personality and rapidly deteriorating cognitive abilities. I could tell from the tone of her voice that there was a crisis. Things had gone downhill. It was dawning on her more readily that Mom was not ok, culminating in a “sun-downer’s” trip to the local dollar store, a rapid series of delusional phone calls, and a midnight fall. She didn’t ask me to come, but she said, “I just don’t know what to do, Rhonda. I simply cannot put up with her any longer.” That was on a Thursday. On Saturday I made the hour and a half trip here from my long-awaited for, quiet little apartment with my sweet, happy little dog Winnie and a haphazardly packed suitcaseful of mismatched clothing and toiletries (and my meds!) A kind, elderly neighbor, who had become a dear friend, willingly offered to bring me here when she heard of my personal crisis. She rarely even leaves her home, let alone the remote area where I had been living.
She was a wreck when I got here, **. The house was no more of a shambles than usual. I know my prideful Mother; she would sooner refuse to open the door rather than be thought of poorly; the floors were clean and she had straightened her piles of clutter. She was, however clothed in her standard attire: bra-less in a worn white t-shirt and pajama pants, however she had thrown an unbuttoned dress shirt over the top of it in an effort to cover her breasts. She greeted us with charm and grace, welcoming my friend (who’s first name is the very same as hers,) with open arms and hospitality.
Granmma told me several days later that she had grown more and more aware, in recent months, of Mom’s decline, and “covering” of it, with futile stories and actions. I was the last person’s eyes she could pull the wool over; it was immediately apparent that she was fully into the next stage of her disease. She needs me here, permanently. It got real, fast.
So, over a week has gone by since I started this; I could have sworn it had been longer. The days fly, but each one also seems like an eternity, at times. This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, **. I’m glad I didn’t finish and send this on the day I started to write to you. Things have gone from black to blue (well, for the most part, and only be the grace of God and by way of his power and will, not mine.) You do know that I came here in 2012 to do just what I’m doing now: care for her because her mind was suffering from the effects of this insidious disorder. I was so ill-equipped, Tammy, so spiritually and physically and psychologically ill. I was incapable of living from minute to minute, let alone caring for my strong-willed, fiercely independent, increasingly angry and defiant mother, who was damned if she was going to relinquish one iota of control to her surly, depressed, but ultimately well-meaning and loving daughter. There were good moments, laughter and camaraderie, but we mostly fought tooth and nail about her meds, her dietary habits, housekeeping and shared finances. I was so sick and misled by false religion, a dance I kept dancing and holding under her nose constantly, “witnessing” to her about HER false religion, Lutheranism. I traipsed off to the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall for Bible study and meetings several times a week, then smoked cigarettes and drank in secret at home. I had a sexual affair with the 26 year-old virgin son of the next door neighbor. I slept off entire days of black depression in Mom’s bedroom, angering her to no end, not contributing to the household chores. There were days when I would do nothing but housework, however, and be as bright as a lightning bug, doing chores for my Gramma, who lives right down the street, showing up for gatherings with my Mom’s sister’s family, who lives here nearby. There is no love lost between them and myself, but I did it for my Gramma and to keep the peace for Mom.
The stress of what I was doing to myself, the battles with Mom, the sick relationship with the young neighbor and the pressure at the Kingdom Hall to go out in service (knocking on doors, it was causing me tremendous anxiety and physical stress from the heat and sun,) and the JW elders told me I could not be baptized unless I was in service for 6 months, all of these things led to my utter devastation. (In retrospect, the fact that I was never baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses was an act of providence.) One day, on a Wednesday, Mom went out for groceries, as I lay, wracked with self-pity with a blanket over my head. I had just gone through a grueling medication change, put on a heavy tranquilizer called Seroquel. **, who still lives next door and is talking to me again after almost two years of silence, told me the other day that I was akin to a zombie at that time. He said that I told him one day to slow down while we were walking, and that that was the only time anyone had ever told HIM to slow down (he is a VERY easy going, mellow guy.) So, Mom gets home from the grocery store and charges into the bedroom carrying two handfuls of groceries and hollers, “Why didn’t you come out to the car to help me with the groceries?” I hadn’t even heard her pull up. She had expected me to watch for her, this woman who took forever to wander through the aisles choosing her items, each time she went shopping. I shot out of bed and went to the car, carrying in what was left.
Oh, it bears mentioning at this point that the previous day, after studying the Bible (with the aid of a man-inspired supplemental publication called “What Does The Bible Teach?”,) I went directly to the bar and got blackout drunk. I rear-ended a car carrying 2 innocent people and got my 4th DUI within 7 years, a felony in Arizona: well, probably in any US state. I came to, handcuffed to a brick wall in Peoria, a town neighboring Sun City, where I was living with Mom and live again with her now. The police released me after my arrest and sent me home in a taxi cab, which I paid for with my debit card. I received a ticket for DUI and my car was towed to a scrap yard. I let it default to an abandoned title and have not been taken to court by Maricopa county or the state of Arizona. They have seven years to prosecute me for my crime, of which four and a half remain. Sloppy record keeping? God’s grace? We cannot begin to guess, and I have stopped living like the shoe will drop any moment, but it nags sometimes. Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. (George Santayana) I am not proud of the poor decisions I have made, **. I have wronged others and torn down my character, but God forgives me and does not see me as a failure. It’s time to forgive myself and do the right thing. I will not drink and drive, not today. I may never have a license again. It would cost thousands and thousands of dollars to obtain one, if I ever even had that kind of money in the first place. I digress.
So, when I had the groceries put away, I went back into the bedroom and took 35 of Mom’s blood pressure lowering tablets and 90 Ativan, a benzodiazapene. I vaguely remember calling **, the young man who I had that unfortunate entanglement with, who I had foolishly agreed to share a cell phone account with. He had become the bain of my financial existence, never paying his bill on time, evading my phone calls, just being a royal pain. I called after I took the pills to tell him to please take care of the account on his own, that I would not be dealing with it anymore. He said Rhonda, what’s going on? I guess he could hear in my voice that something was off. He said what is ** phone number? I gave it to him. That was the last thing I remember until coming hazily to in a roomful of recliners with a very rude, loud mouthed young woman who wouldn’t let me cover my face with a blanket. I was devastated that the pills hadn’t worked. I would remain hospitalized for the next week.
I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, in addition to my manic depression, ADHD, alcoholism, and general condition of restlessness, irritability and constant feeling of discontent. After my stay in the psychiatric facility, during which I was court ordered to seek psychiatric care for one year, I moved out of Mom’s place and in with ** and her husband. I was deeply depressed and beyond shameful that I had failed my Mother. I also found out at that time that ** (my ex husband of 10 years,) had gotten engaged. He married several months later, to a beautiful woman, in Hawaii. I found this out by looking at his Facebook page. I was wrecked, Tammy, completely. I texted him furiously, obsessively. For some reason he let me. He never blocked me or ignored me. I was a madwoman. I was in so much pain but I NEVER TURNED TO GOD. I made a male friend online through a thought exchange website called Soul Pancake, a site started by an anti theist celebrity, a place teeming with Christian haters. I began a sexual flirtation with him, exchanging nude photos, emailing back and forth every day, finding comfort in him instead of the True Source of comfort, the only refuge that is real.
I was made to attend an outpatient treatment program by my probation officer, as a reprimand for the DUI. (I had been convicted of felony assault on a peace officer in 2011.) It was at a place called TERROS, a drug and alcohol rehab center that specializes in co-occurring conditions: addicts who also have mental illnesses and personality disorders. We were quite a group, all over the map. I was immediately put off, before I even started my first day, by the woman who came to pick me up. She was a LCSW who led some of the groups and did individual counseling. She was assigned to me but I asked to be put with someone else, because she offended me in a big way on that first trip to the facility. You know, **, I can’t even remember what she said, but I can remember how she made me feel, and it wasn’t good. It wasn’t right, the way she treated me, but the man they assigned me to was good; he was compassionate and patient and he treated me with respect. To this day he is my friend and cheerleader. He is a recovered alcoholic and a member of AA. If it weren’t for him I would have seen my time at TERROS as a sentence, not the pleasure and healing experience that I see it as having been. I made some friends there and remember it as one of the more positive therapies I have gone through.
But hindsight is indeed 20/20. I spent the next two years at the races. I drank some more, played around with pot and meth but mostly men. I got my own place and shortly thereafter tried to off myself again. ** didn’t hear from me for 18 hours and came to my apartment. She found the door locked and called the police to break in. They found me out cold on the floor, pills strewn everywhere, booze on the countertop, my knees and elbows bloody from having crawled around on the hardwood floor after I had taken the pills. I was in a coma for 3 solid days, hospitalized for 6 more after I was stabilized, then they took me to an urgent care psych facility for 3, then to the looniest loony bin I have ever been locked into. It was straight out of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Wow. It was totally surreal. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
I had applied for and been instantly approved for VA benefits (medical, no monthly check,) the year before, by way of the encouragement of a student in her clinical rotation at TERROS. She was a Navy reservist. I had been a blind fool all those years, **. I thought “no service connection” meant that I wasn’t entitled to healthcare from the VA. The AF had sent me away without telling me that I had a right to this benefit. They threw me to the wolves. But it really was my responsibility. I was just too sick and young and ignorant to be my own advocate. I went to the VA hospital and spent a couple of weeks there, afraid I was going to attempt suicide. That was in between the 2012 attempt and the one in my apartment in 2013, the one I just described. I am being confusing.
The day I was discharged from that den of insanity I went to after being in the coma, I had an appointment at the VA to be screened for a group that they offer: a forward-thinking, mindfulness-centered program called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. l made it just in time, thanks to the Behavioral Health facility that I had been receiving my court-ordered psychiatric care and free medication from after my discharge from place where was hospitalized after my 2012 suicide attempt. I was accepted to the program and attended for the next year. I achieved a tenuous level of stability but still relied on substances and young men for comfort. I drifted away from any semblance of a personal relationship with God. I ignored the principles I had learned and had once relied upon through my involvement with AA. I kept in close contact with Mom but very little with any other family or friends except my brother, occasionally, who was in and out of sobriety and diagnosed, a couple of years ago, with schizophrenia.
Last year I met a man online: a married, younger man with a precious little girl, who lives in Vermont. We fell deeply in love. He loves God and grew up having a relationship with Him. We knew we were sinning from the beginning but our hearts hardened to it more as we fell more deeply. We tried to end it four times, and kept going back. He came to see me three times. On the day he left the last time, the very same day we thought would be the last time we were to speak, I got the call from Gramma. My heart was torn apart over this man and I had my Mother, in crisis, to rescue and my Grandmother to relieve of her burden. I had my little dog to look after. Just days after I arrived here, ** logged into my email from Vermont, wanting to have closeness with me in some way, if only through reading the thousands of emails and photos we had exchanged over the past months. He had done some work on my computer while he was here for his last visit and remembered my password. He looked through my sent mails and discovered that I had been online talking to other men while professing my love to him. He texted me and asked if he should get tested for diseases. I told him that person wasn’t me, that it was my sickness, that my love for him was real, that I meant every word. He said there was no resolution for us. Then his heart changed. He forgave me. He urged me to confess all, to be honest for once in my life, and I did, reluctantly and in increments. It brought me to a place of intense suffering, the perfect condition to be in for God to begin a mighty work in us. For the next two weeks we shared forgiveness and healing and we poured it all out to God and shared our hopes for each other: his desire to heal his marriage and to show his daughter what a relationship with God looks like, to grow back to Christ. I shared my desire to live for Christ and to fulfill the spiritual need that I have been aware of since I was 17 years old. We knew we had to do what was right, which is not always easy. We said goodbye, we poured it all out, like the woman with the precious oil at the passover feast who anointed Jesus’ head. We gave up our most precious possession: each other. We made a sacrifice to Christ, the way he did for us.
I found an amazing, humble and loving body of Christ, led by a really great pastor. ** found them online from Vermont, actually, and Pastor called me on the phone. He called a couple who lives nearby and they take me to church every Sunday and with them every time the doors are open. They even offer to do things for me whenever I ask, and they tell me with sincerity that they are honored to do so. They take Mom along, too. The church prays for her salvation. They pray for ** (the man I had to let go, back to his family and to God,), too, and anyone I ask for them to pray for, and for me, too. And I pray too, for anyone and everyone, and for the church. Prayer is so powerful. God is so amazing, **. He works in my life, so powerfully and in such amazing ways. I can only imagine what he has in store for me. If I can just show him just a tiny bit of the love and obedience that he shows me, I will be so happy and grateful.
Mom is 100% better, She is more lucid, she’s lost weight. We were battling it out hourly for the first few weeks. Now we are happy and smiling almost all day every day. Gramma is delighted and has peace, although she is in pain most of the time with her osteoarthiritis, She works herself too hard, helping her neighbors and her church and feeding the birds and puttering around her house. She takes us to appointments and to the store, too, and answers to Mom’s sister, **, a real mini-force to be reckoned with, much like my sister. ** and her husband brought Gramma down here about 13 years ago, after my Grampa died. They bought her place and pay a lot of her bills, so ** wears the pants. She is good at heart but so controlling and judgmental. Like my sister, bless her flat head. ** has never stopped forming her opinion of me based on my past poor decisions and irresponsible actions, but she is coming around, little by slowly. I think she is impressed by the work I am doing with Mom, One day we had a very heated discussion on the phone (we mostly text, ** is not much on communication,) and she said some very hurtful things, throwing the past into my face. Later she texted me an APOLOGY and THANKED ME for what I’m doing for Mom. The amazing thing: I didn’t get puffed up with pride or vindication, I was just grateful.
So now, that I’ve typed your eyeballs off, I want to thank you, and make amends. Thank you thank you a million times for the nuggets of love and wisdom, for the laughs and friendship and awesome cake. For making me a part of your ministry and your family. I love you **. Please forgive my immaturity and my thoughtlessness. My careless words and actions. And rest assured I will make mistakes but I will be more cautious with your beautiful heart, You are one of a kind. Say Hi to **, give him my love and be thee well.
At my Alzhiemer’s support group today, a woman who has been caring for her husband for several years shared the most touching, intimate moment. He’s been “gone” for quite some time now, and had a brilliant moment of clarity this last week. He woke up one morning and said “I don’t remember anything.” “I don’t know where I am, how I got here, what’s going on. Who’s been taking care of me?” “Has it been you?” She told him that it had, and he asked if it had really gotten to her, driven her crazy. She said that it hadn’t, but of course, it gets to all of us, very much, but we learn to deal. He also said, “Do you get tired of me telling you that I love you all the time?” She told him that no, she did not. She told us that yes, she did get tired of it, especially when she was trying to get him to go to bed, but that she would never have told him so.
They cried a bit and laughed, too. Then he went right back to where he was, and when he woke up the next morning he got ready to go to to a job he hasn’t been able to do in a very long time. She related this experience with the most calm sense of acceptance, one I can only hope to achieve, in time.
I was moved to silent tears when she told us what had happened. And to think, I almost curled up on the couch, in my exhaustion, this morning, but remembered that the group took place on Thursday mornings. It’s an oasis, filled with hope, love and encouragement. We might not be able to change what’s happening to these people that we love, but we can lean on each other and provide shelter in the storm.
Source: Good Housekeeping, March 1954
A Letter To A Woman Alcoholic
Wherever you are, at whatever stage in the long descent, this is for you.
It says nothing of shame or scorn or ridicule; it brings only love and
understanding. And help
If I lived across the street from you and saw you gallantly but
hopelessly struggling against your ailment and spoke to you sometimes
when you couldn’t avoid meeting me, I’d not dare to tell you what I want
to tell you now. You wouldn’t let me, because you’d be afraid of me.
You’d think I was in the world- wide conspiracy against you; you’d resent
me for suspecting your secret agony.
If we looked into each other’s faces, I couldn’t find a way of letting
you know I love the sight of you. I couldn’t tell you that I find nothing
in you to despise or ridicule or preach at, for you wouldn’t let me speak
about what is your fatal malady. We’d both pretend it doesn’t exist.
So I am having to write to you. I am writing you a letter and putting it
in this safe place, where you will find it and hide it from your family
and then read it.
You and I begin by having one bond in common: We both know you are
secretly worried to death about your drinking.
You may be any age – a college girl, a young mother, an admired
professional woman, the wife of your town’s most prominent citizen, a
staid-looking grandmother. You may be an extrovert and the life of the
party or a frightened, inferior-feeling little person who has to pour
courage out of a bottle before attempting anything, no matter how simple
it seems to other people.
You may have been drinking for months or years. You would be horrified
and deny it hotly if anyone called you an alcoholic, but secretly you are
wondering whether you are one. I’ll answer that immediately by saying
that if you can’t control your drinking, if you drink more than you would
like to admit, the chances are you are an alcoholic. When I say that
word, I have named a person afflicted with a disease. It grows
progressively worse, constantly narrowing one’s world until nothing is
desired and nothing is real but alcohol.
Because you are a woman, your drinking life is probably most secretive,
for you have done everything possible to hide it from everyone, even from
yourself. And you may have succeeded. Perhaps nobody knows – yet – that
you ever take a drink. For you dare not drink one cocktail in public,
knowing that the first drink is the stumble at the top of a long flight
down which you will inevitably tumble. You may become a “bedroom
drinker,” and I may have followed you at this moment into your own room,
where you intend to reach for a bottle hidden under your lingerie or in
an innocent hatbox on the top shelf. Your family may not yet be
suspicious of your frequent “headaches.”
On the other hand, you may be one of those shadows who live their lives
in the twilight of bars and cocktail lounges. You may be the neighborhood
problem or the town scandal. Your family may have stopped trying to cover
up for you; not even your children try to make excuses for you any more.
Or you may even have lost your family because you were helpless about
But at whatever stage you are at this moment, there is hope for you here.
And neither blame nor shame should be attached to you. You do not deserve
the self- righteous pleadings and the aggrieved accusations that everyone
has showered on you. “If you loved us, you’d stop.” “You think of nobody
but yourself.” “You should be ashamed of yourself, with all your
education and opportunity!” You are not a selfish, immoral monster.
Indeed you are quite the opposite. You are a desperately ill woman.
After you realize this, the next fact for you to accept is that you are
free from any guilt. When you admit you are an alcoholic, you no longer
deserve to be blamed and punished (beyond the inhuman punishment you have
been giving yourself). You must only recognize that you are ill. Your
illness is dangerous. It can destroy everything it comes near; unless it
is arrested it can destroy the mind and the body of its victim. But it is
no more your “fault” than having hay fever or diabetes would be. Alcohol
is a poison to you if you are an alcoholic.
You are not alone in the indescribable torture that is alcoholism. There
are countless thousands of women like you in early or late stages of
falling to pieces. Of the sixty-five million people in our country who
use alcohol, more than four million are problem drinkers. An estimated
650,000 of these are women. It is difficult to count them accurately,
because women, especially housewives, can hide their condition better
than men. They can hide it, at least, for a while. But the woman
alcoholic suffers more acutely than does the man; her psychology and
constitution are more complex and more sensitive. She can endure her
self-loathing less easily, and she feels much more keenly the social
stigma an ignorant society still puts on alcoholism. I don’t need to tell
you that, I’m sure. I wish with all my heart it were mere interesting
theory to you, but I know it is not.
The bravado that insulates men alcoholics does not come to women like you
until they have almost killed their real selves within their ill bodies.
I have heard many women alcoholics say, ” I was completely dead inside
myself. Nothing could reach me and help me.”
It is difficult for most women to admit, even to themselves, that they
are alcoholics. Yet this admission is their first step toward sobriety
and sanity. If you have not taken that first step already, let me help
you make it today. For if you can admit that your inner panic and
devastation are symptoms of alcoholism, you are ready for help.
My purpose in writing this letter to you is to tell you that, in spite of
your desperate illness, you can “rejoin the human race” and live a
reasonable normal life. In fact you will find that life to be much
happier than average living. You will not return to the old life you
enjoyed before alcoholism overwhelmed you. That life was not good enough
for you; you tried to escape your frustration and despair by losing it in
drink. This life I’m going to tell you about lies on the other side of a
great experience, and you can find it and be exactly what God had in mind
when He made you.
Alcoholics Anonymous is what I’m writing to you about. It has stopped the
drinking of nearly a quarter of a million (Ed.note: As of 1954. Today we
number in the millions)desperate, defeated men and women and redesigned
their lives. If you are willing and humble enough to let it work for you,
it will not only make today’s drink your last one forever but will give
you a new way of life, indescribably good and of benefit to all who see
The general public has little comprehension of the way A.A. works, and,
in fact nobody can explain it intellectually. But there is multiplied
evidence that it does work. After admitting yourself to be powerless over
alcohol, if you sincerely want help, you ask a power greater than
yourself to take over your life. On a superficial level this would mean
little. But on the deep emotional plane where this asking occurs (and
with all your suffering endorsing the plea), the strongest force a human
being can experience is released. The presence of this felt power is
stronger than the alcohol, which up to that moment had been the paramount
urge, overmastering love of family, self-respect, and self-preservation
itself. The A.A.’s cannot easily discuss this tremendous experience. But
it does not need to be discussed; its results are beyond any doubting.
Nobody knows how it works, but it does.
Let’s talk about you a minute. How did you become an alcoholic in the
first place? Not just out of cussedness or meanness, of course. Medical
science and psychiatry have established the fact that many people drink
to excess from emotional causes. I’ve know two women who became
alcoholics because they lost their children, and many because their
husbands failed them. Most alcoholics are perfectionists and idealists.
They expect to accomplish wonders with their lives; when they cannot live
up to their ideals, they cannot face their disappointment in themselves.
In spite of what others usually believe, alcoholics have terrific
consciences. They care so deeply about everything that they cannot endure
the stress and strain of worry. When an irresistible conscience meets an
immovable inability to endure the agony of worry, there’s a wide-open
invitation to excess drinking. Emotional conflicts in you supersensitive
people become so unbearable that escape, amounting to total obliteration,
is sought. In some alcoholics a feeling of inferiority born in childhood
builds up a compensation mechanism that creates egotism gluttonous for
praise and success and never satisfied with what is offered to it. In
women, the too fat ego demands flattery, indulgence, and, in some cases,
continual romance. Disappointed in her excessive demands for perfection,
a frustrated woman sometimes believes the dreamy promises of alcohol, the
When these extreme emotional tensions exist in addition to bodily
allergy, alcoholic ruin is inevitable. People drink because they are
unhappy; they are unhappy because they drink; and the vicious spiral
whirls on until one cannot tell which was cause and which effect.
The way back from this unfathomable torture must include treatment for
both the emotional obsession and the physical illness. Psychiatry and
medicine have worked together on thousands of cases and in some have been
successful. But their record of permanent success is discouragingly low.
The alcoholic is called the “heartbreak of the medical profession,”
because all too often the physician knows that the beaten, suicidal body
he is restoring will come back to him in a few months in exactly the
same, or a worse condition.
The positive results of Alcoholics Anonymous are inexplicably high. It is
usually estimated that nearly 75 per cent of alcoholics who try A.A.
therapy come through to success. In some cases it is fantastically
simple. At the end of their own resources, they ask for A.A. help, and
from that day on never take another drink. In other cases they are “on
and off” the program for months. I know of one young woman who tried for
three years to make it. Even some of the A.A.’s who worked with her lost
faith in her chances. But she stubbornly believed she would finally be
able to stop drinking. One night last week I went to her third” birthday”
party and I saw her blow out the candles on her cake.
She was unrecognizable as the person who struggled so hopelessly through
many twilit years. When she first heard of A.A., she had been drinking
for eight years, since she was nineteen. He family had finally given her
up, for she had drifted lower and lower until she was beyond their reach.
At the age of twenty-seven she looked forty – fat and sloppy and maudlin.
It was almost impossible to look at the tall slender girl in a smart
white frock, blowing out the three candles, and believe she had any
connection with the blowzy, fat woman who took her last drink three years
ago. She has lately married a wonderful, substantial man who understands
her perfectly and admires her wisely. They say they have the prize
marriage in captivity, and I must say it looks just that.
One of the miracles of A.A. is that it transforms bodies as well as
emotions and minds. The very substance of flesh and hair seems made over.
Women whose bodies have been degraded by neglect and abuse now value
their appearance, because, as one said to me, “God just seemed to paint a
new portrait of me.”
That wasn’t mere wishful thinking when I said you could find more than
average happiness in the lives of A.A. members. Of all groups on earth,
the people who have rescued themselves from the undersea horrors of
alcoholism are the most exuberantly joyous ones I’ve ever found. They are
not indifferent or bored now; all living has quickened to importance for
them. Does it seem unbelievable to you that you could ever be so
conspicuously happy – without anything to drink? You’ll learn new
meanings for the word “happy.”
When you stand outside a room where a group of Alcoholics Anonymous is
meeting, the most frequent sound you hear is laughter. Mellow laughter,
which can come only from people who have looked destruction and
catastrophe in the face, not once but continuously over long years, and
now are free and unafraid. The laughter, in short, of people who hold
God’s hand and feel safe.
That is the basis of Alcoholics Anonymous, the fact almost incredible to
a world that is half-afraid to expect much of God in everyday life. The
single thing that decides whether or not you will find your sobriety, the
A.A.’s say is your willingness. Willingness to admit that you are
powerless over alcohol and that your life has become unmanageable. Then
willingness to turn your will and your life over to God, as you
understand Him. This is not glib willingness, by any means. It is not
achieved until you have passed your last outpost of helplessness. It is
at the point where “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.”
It is such a deep cry for help that sometimes you yourself do not
recognize it as prayer. Until after it has been answered, that is.
For example, let me tell you about how a friend of mine found A.A. I’ll
call her Nora because that is not her name. A.A. provides absolute
anonymity; one need not hesitate about trusting the privacy promised.
Nora had been an unhappy child in an unhappy home. Not much had ever gone
right for her, and she did not believe it ever would. As she grew up, one
tragedy after another happened, and she tried to escape by drinking.
The first good thing that came into her life was the love she and her
husband had for each other. Soon after they were married, Nora realized
she was an alcoholic. Before marrying she had believed she drank because
she was unhappy; now that she was happy she found herself unable to stop
drinking. She did everything possible to keep her husband from realizing
the truth about her. But her craving for alcohol was so uncontrollable
that as soon as he had left in the morning she gulped down several
drinks. (Alcoholics drink faster than most people.) She lay in bed most
of the day, hating herself. When her head felt as if it would split, she
put an ice pack on it; and when her husband came home, she quickly slid
the ice pack to her cheek, saying she had a toothache.
Gradually, of course, he found out the truth. He begged her to promise
not to touch alcohol, and she eagerly did. But the next time she was
alone, she was powerless to resist. Her husband got medical help for her,
but it did no good. She spent many sessions in sanitariums; those too
Nora told me about this period a few nights ago as she was driving me to
an A.A. meeting at our county jail. She said, “I’ve never been in jail
myself, but I know about solitary confinement. An alcoholic has prison
bars inside his own skull. He exists behind those bars in solitary
This wretchedness continued for many years without a ray of hope. Then
one day she had an accident while driving. The doctors told her husband
she was going to die. Amazingly she recovered, and this seemed to her one
more evidence of her tragic bad luck, for she was sick of existence.
On the way home from the hospital, her husband told her he was going to
put her permanently in an institution, for both their sakes. She said she
would be committed willingly, because she loved him too much to keep
killing him by inches.
At home she was put immediately to bed, and she tells me that for the
first time in her life she cried out within herself to God. “If you can
hear me, help me,” was all she said. She went to sleep for a while, and
when she woke up, she asked her husband to call a doctor. He said,” Which
one, dear?” for many doctors had drifted in and out of her muddled
existence. She said the first name that came into her mind, a doctor she
had not seen for years.
In half an hour he was beside her bed. Since he had worked unsuccessfully
on her case, he had become interested in A.A. Immediately he phoned the
local A.A. office, nd within an hour a woman member arrived at Nora’s
Nora has never taken a drink since. She is convinced that the moment her
very simple prayer was said, it was answered. She never doubted that her
outcome was therefore safe. She is now a gentle and beautiful woman, full
of happiness and freedom. The fear and insecurities and her superstitious
belief that she was marked for “bad luck” have completely dropped away.
Her life is filled with activity and interest. But she never for a day
forgets that she has surrendered herself and her life to God’s managing.
She remembers she is an incurable alcoholic and that one drink would
plunge her back into darkness. She tells me that every night before she
sleeps she says, “Thank you, God, for keeping me sober today.”To show you
how complete is the allergy in some alcoholics, I’d like to tell you the
story of a grandmother, whom we’ll call Jane, who took the first drink of
her life when she was fifty-nine years old. It was at a bridge party with
some new neighbors. The other guests had only a glass or two of punch,
but Jane couldn’t seem to get enough of it. In fact, before the party
broke up, the hostess mixed her several cocktails, for it seemed most
amusing to see the proper little middle-aged woman suddenly so crazy
about drinking. By the time Jane’s husband, Jim, called for her she was
hilariously making a nuisance of herself. Jim got her home and into bed,
and she fell immediately to sleep. But just as she was dropping off she
said, “Jim, we’ve missed the best part of life. Tomorrow I’m going to mix
you some nice cocktails.”
The next morning Jane went boldly into a package store and bought a
bottle of rye. Her intention was to have one drink, for medicinal
purposes, and to save the rest for cocktails to show Jim what they had
been missing. But the one drink led Jane straight through the bottle. She
was an alcoholic, completely and fully developed, just waiting for the
first drop to set her off.
From that day on she was a problem drinker, completely out of control. At
first it seemed screamingly funny that this could happen to such a little
homebody. But before a month had passed, both Jim and she knew she was in
real trouble. Her sons couldn’t believe what had happened; it sounded too
fantastic. But there was no doubt about her alcoholism, for nothing else
mattered to her but her day’s quart. Her minister prayer over her; her
daughters-in-law kept the grand children out of her sight; her physician
gave her a drug, Antabuse, which creates an aversion to liquor. But that
neatly killed her when, in spite of warnings, she drank alcohol
Six horrifying years followed. When she couldn’t get money any other way,
she went out on the street and begged for it. She sold her clothes, stole
from her husband, and even got a job cleaning up a cocktail lounge, “for
drinks.” The day she was picked up by the police as drunk and disorderly,
she hit bottom. Then, all by herself she went to an A.A. meeting. It was
the beginning of the way back.
An Alcoholics Anonymous meeting is a tremendous experience I for anyone,
even for a nonalcoholic like me. First of all, you are surprised to
discover that it is not a solemn occasion. You find a cross section of
types present, and except for those who are attending for the first time,
everyone is laughing and talking. Only first names are used, for purposes
of anonymity. The only distinguishing mark of the group is that everyone
is unusually kind and affectionate toward everyone else. It is as if all
shyness and shame and pretence have been stripped away and people are
acting spontaneously – from within themselves instead of from the
A.A.’s have told me that they felt at home for the first time in their
whole lives when they attended such a meeting. This is understandable,
for here no one criticizes, or blames, or is disgusted or shocked at
anything. Here is utter understanding, because each person present has
suffered through the same purgatories. Here also are people you cannot
fool with the alibis and dodges and deceits the alcoholic always has at
hand. Here are people who know ’em all and cheerfully tell you so. It is
a relief to be among such people after you have lived for years in a maze
of lies and subterfuges. It is as exhilarating as if you discovered a
whole new race, with meanness and false pride omitted. It is as
comfortable as if you were in a room full of people who all turned out to
be yourself in different guises. You know you can trust them to see you
as good – and as bad – as you are, without blame or shame.
Meetings follow a simple pattern. In California, for instance, an A.A.
meeting would proceed in much this way: A chapter called “How It Works”
is read from the Alcoholics Anonymous “textbook.” A member volunteers to
act as chairman to conduct the meeting. The chairman may begin by saying,
“Good evening, friends. I am an alcoholic.” After telling a little of his
own history, he introduces speakers he has selected to tell about
themselves. Each speaker, man or woman, tells what he was, what he is
now, and how he made the trip between the two states of being. They tell
their stories with complete frankness and often with much humor. An
alcoholic attending for the first time id often shattered with relief at
hearing the horrors, which all his life have been mentioned in
self-righteous whispers, now being talked about in plain words and with
laughter. Inhibitions and self-condemnation too painful to admit collapse
like walls of wax under this quite simple therapy.
When I ask A.A. how they can laugh and joke about their old sufferings,
they say, “Well, you see, all that happened to my worst enemy. Not to me,
certainly.” It is the most wholesome kind of divorcement from the past
that any therapy has ever achieved. The past was a series of hangovers;
but when that past departs, it leaves neither hangover nor scar.
At the end of the meeting there is a moment of silent prayer; then
everyone rises and repeats the Lord’s Prayer in unison. I defy anyone to
take part in this and remain untouched. Then there is coffee and cake and
an hour of friendly companionship. Many alcoholics have become bankrupt
in their social live, and A.A. offers them comfortable and easy
opportunity to make friends again and to “belong.”
There are meetings every day; in Los Angeles alone there are thirty-five
meetings nightly. They are usually attended by slightly more men than
women. There are also stag meetings for men who feel freer when no women
are present, and all-woman groups, some of which meet in the morning or
Besides the usual meeting places, in many cities clubrooms are
maintained, where friends may have a meal together, play a little bridge,
read magazines, or just talk (one of the alcoholic’s favorite enjoyments
after years of evasiveness). Actually alcoholics are gregarious people
who have deeply hurt themselves by destroying human relationships. Now
they return to trusting and being trusted with utter sincerity.
Alcoholism is an incurable disease; one suffering from it can never
return to social drinking. The allergy is present for a lifetime, but
with A.A. there is no fear about it. One does not have to hide from
alcohol or avoid normal drinkers. One need only be on guard against the
first drink – always, as long as life lasts. A.A.’s say cheerfully,”
Don’t take the first drink, and you’ll never take any other.” This is
possible one day at a time, A.A.’s keep close to the presence of God, and
through this closeness the multiple problems that once tore down every
department of their lives are finally solved, and the rebuilding goes on
If you have come this far in my letter to you my unknown friend, you must
know how uncondemning I am about you. And the love I have for you is
multiplied by thousands. All you need do now is reach out and touch that
love, for it is waiting to put itself into action for you. Help is as
close to you as your telephone at this moment.
Your telephone directory holds the number; look it up under the A’s –
Alcoholics Anonymous. Ask for a woman to come to see you. No need for you
to tell anyone else that you have taken this step. When she comes, you
won’t have to tell her anything painful about yourself; you won’t have to
tell her much of anything. She knows all about you – more than you know
about yourself. For she has gone every step of the way you’ve gone, and
even farther. And she has come to sobriety and usefulness and a life she
never could have imagined possible for herself.
If you find what is there for you, maybe you’ll write and tell me. Or
better than that, find another woman who needs it and tell her. God bless
Source: Good Housekeeping, March 1954
I’ve had this old Lowenbrau jingle in my head for days, and who turns up but a good friend. He is driving back to Texas (where we met,) from Las Vegas. J and I have been friends since 1999. He’s one of the coolest guys I’ve ever known. We can laugh together over dumb stuff or comfort each other about loss in our lives. I rarely meet anyone that is so much fun to hang out with. Is with a preposition? I will have to look it up.
(Grammar and Syntex nerds UNITE!)
I am no good at living by myself. It’s been difficult enough to adjust to so much time on my hands since I moved to Arizona, but now I am alone most of the time. The first month was nice; I read every day, watched movies on my laptop and met a couple of my neighbors. The books have dwindled and I can’t sit still long enough to watch films. The neighbors were evicted for non-payment. I pace my poor, bare floor most of the day. Even meals are taken afoot. My mind is clear, this much is positive. There are no ruminations as I pace, no anxiety or depression. I have not gone anywhere save for the grocery and book stores because of this ravaging heat. When it dissipates I will make up for lost time, spending my paces on going places.
Only I hope she isn’t up at 3:30, drinking coffee. She would be a nutcase.
I am, for certain, a nutcase. I started this journal/blog to delve into my alcoholism. I wrote like I was on fire, for awhile. I lost my enthusiasm for recovery from drugs and alcohol. That’s when I lost interest here, I guess. I still want and need sobriety, but AA wasn’t doing it anymore. Maybe I just wasn’t doing AA. I think often that I need to go back, at least for the fellowship. One of my firsts posts here was on fellowshipaholics. I wouldn’t mind being one of those for awhile. I was pretty down on a lot of stuff back then, but mostly on myself. I can’t believe I’m even writing this; it’s getting better. So my apologies to any fellowshipaholics out there; it sure beats the alternative.